News room: How to Be A Better Writer - Tips from Shakespeare

How to Be A Better Writer - Tips from Shakespeare by Jessica Barrah

This month marks 400 years since Shakespeare’s death. Around the world there are festivals, events and projects to celebrate and commemorate his life and works. We’ve brought together five of his quotations as tips for writers.

1. “I wasted time, and now doth time waste me.”
Richard II, Act 5 Scene 5

Shakespeare is against the writer’s curse – procrastination. You never know when your number might be up, or you’ll get imprisoned in a castle without your laptop. Luckily with modern medicine, it’s more likely that you’ll live to past the allotted ‘three score and ten’, but still, you could be hit by a bus. So what are you waiting for?

2. “Wisely, and slow. They stumble that run fast”
Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, Scene 3

Shakespeare knows you shouldn’t rush things – like proof-reading, or sending your imperfect first draft to a literary agent. Or falling in love and getting hitched to someone from a rival family.

3. “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
Hamlet Act 2, Scene 2.

Thumbs up for editing from The Bard. You don’t need to overcomplicate things. Get rid of extraneous words. Say what you want to say as economically as possible. And then stop.

4. “Boldness be my friend. Arm me, audacity, from head to foot!”
Cymbeline, Act 1 Scene 6

Let’s be clear – being a writer isn’t anything like being a warrior. But it still takes courage to keep going, and see things through to the end of your manuscript. Confidence and self-belief are essential to survive the inevitable rejections from agents and publishers. And you need them just as much as a self-published author, when launching and promoting your book. In quivering moments, take ‘Boldness be my friend’ as a mantra, and charge into battle – in a dignified writerly way, of course.

5. “Men at some time are masters of their fates: The fault… is not in our stars, But in ourselves”
Julius Caesar Act 1 Scene 2

Why haven’t you won the Man Booker yet? Or got to the top of the bestseller lists? It’s easy to blame bad luck or other people. The publishing business is hard to break into, and even when you’re a published author, it’s not plain sailing. With self-publishing, your fate is to a greater extent in your own hands. That’s not to say that you should go it alone – hiring proof-readers, a good editor and getting a great cover design can help give your book a much better start. But, essentially, you’re in charge of your destiny.

Have you got any favourite quotations from Shakespeare? Please do share them with us!

Further reading:

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Written by
Jessica Barrah
Published on
Shakespeare, Quotations, Writing, Publishing, Self-publishing, Inspiration, and Writers